Cove Staff

Pirates Cove Staff
Biographies - Click on BIO to be taken to the individual biographies or scroll down the page to see all staff.

Will Cowen- Co-founder, Admiral [BIO]
Joey Ramirez- Co-founder, Interdisciplinary Studies faculty and Ship’s Captain [BIO]

Cynthia Hernandez- Student Success and Support Specialist, Quarter Master [BIO]
Lester Leal- Student Success and Support Specialist, Sailing Master [BIO]
Alexa Nicoleyson- Student Success and Support Specialist, Boatswain [BIO]

Liz Kraus- Interdisciplinary Studies faculty, Master Gunner [BIO]
Christine O’Neill- Interdisciplinary Studies faculty, Carpenter and Surgeon [BIO]
Gavrielle Blank- Interdisciplinary Studies faculty, Carpenter and Surgeon [BIO]
Sheila Bernard - Interdisciplinary Studies faculty, Carpenter and Surgeon [BIO]

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Will Cowen

Will Cowen enters his 21st year in public education and 10th at Ventura College as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and co-founder of the VC Pirates Cove. Upon graduating from Ventura College, Cowen coached football, basketball and baseball at Ventura High School to help pay for college. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and taught Spanish at VHS while completing his master’s degree at Azusa Pacific University. He then taught alternative education programs in the Oxnard Union High School District for 7 years; developing a passion for assisting at-risk-students. Cowen relishes the opportunity to give back to the campus community at Ventura College, by providing leadership outside of intercollegiate athletics. Cowen enjoys the process of collaboration with faculty, staff and administration as the VC Pirates Cove continues to grow, improve and serve students.
Will may be contacted at wcowen@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6347


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Joey Ramirez

Joey Ramirez enters his 19th year in public education and 9th at Ventura College.
Joey has served as Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Health and Kinesiology Professor, and co-founder of the VC Pirates Cove. Joey was also a student at Ventura College and then transferred to Pepperdine University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside and master’s degree from Azusa Pacific University. He also taught Mathematics at Santa Paula High School (9 years), where he was also an integral part of the Summer Institute Program, which targeted at-risk, incoming freshmen with challenges in mathematics. He continued teaching mathematics at Oak Park High School for three more years; further developing a passion for assisting at-risk students. Ramirez relishes the opportunity to give back to the campus community at Ventura College, by assisting students in math on a daily basis. Ramirez enjoys the process of collaboration with all divisions on campus, as the VC Pirates Cove continues to connect students with campus resources.
Joey may be contacted at joey_ramirez@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6139.


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Cynthia Hernandez

Cynthia Hernandez enters her second year as a Student Success and Support Specialist at Ventura College. She graduated from Ventura College and was a member of the 2014 state championship women’s basketball team. She then transferred to Rutgers University (New Jersey) earning a bachelor’s degree in Labor Relations and is currently working on her master’s degree from the University of South Dakota in Kinesiology. Encompassing Cynthia's academic and intercollegiate success and experience includes her reservoir of personal experiences that continue to serve as a catalyst to push herself above all that could have otherwise held her down. It is because of this Cynthia is able to encourage where many might need that extra push of support from someone who understands.
Cynthia also helps support her family. When it comes to the students at VC, she is committed to helping them believe in themselves and accomplishing anything they set their mind to.
Cynthia may be contacted at cynthia_hernandez15@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6280.


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Lester Neal

Lester Neal is in his first season as Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Ventura College. He is not a stranger to the VC campus; Lester graduated from Ventura College in 1991. He was once a struggling student considering giving up, until he was encouraged to take advantage of the academic resources that VC offered. Those resources allowed him to change his academic outlook as he went on to graduate from Ventura with a 3.0 GPA and transfer to Arizona State University. After a professional basketball career, Lester earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Arizona State University and embarked on a new career working with youth and families from low income communities in Arizona. Lester spent eleven years working on the Salt River Pima-Indian Community concentrating on growth and development of youth. He was instrumental in establishing Casey Life Skills and Independent Living within the Youth Services Program. One of Lester’s most significant accomplishments was building a structure of organizational skills and techniques to the Foster Youth Services programing statewide. These skills allowed many students to graduate from high school and attend college; a feat that many thought was impossible.
Lester is excited to bring these same skills and attributes to the students of Ventura College and the Pirates Cove. Through partnerships with the campus, Lester is looking forward solidifying the Pirates Cove as a reliable pillar of student support service at VC.
Lester may be contacted at lester_neal1@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6280.


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Alexa Nicoleyson

Alexa Nicoleyson enters her first year as a Student Success and Support Specialist at Ventura College. Alexa was a student at Ventura College and served as Senator of Internal Affairs for one year. She then transferred to the University of Southern California earning a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Journalism. She studied abroad in London, UK for six months and traveled through Europe, Central America, and Asia. Her global experiences and academic achievements have led to a passion of empowering students to become successful and self-directed lifelong learners.
Alexa may be contacted at alexa_nicoleyson1@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6280.


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Elizabeth (Liz) Kraus

Elizabeth (Liz) Kraus, English Professor, is entering her 18th year of education with Ventura College. A returning student, Liz earned her associate of arts degree at Ventura College. She then transferred to Cal State, Northridge, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English. It was with great pride that Liz was able to return to VC as a faculty member and proud alumna. While her teaching is now focused on English V01B, Critical Thinking and Composition, Liz also taught English V02 for many years. Beyond her teaching skills, Liz brings to her classroom as well as to the VC Pirates Cove a feeling of community and acceptance. She sees time spent at the Cove as an opportunity to assist students overcome any fear of writing and instead replace it with feeling comfortable with this process. When it comes to the students at VC, Liz is one who naturally encourages learners to reach their academic goals--including new goals never once imagined!
Liz may be contacted at ekraus@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6280.


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Christine O’Neill

Christine O’Neill enters her 28th year in public education and 22nd at Ventura College working in the Learning Resource Center (the Beach). She earned her bachelor’s degree from Montana State and her master’s degree from UC Santa Barbara. In addition she holds a Professional Clear Multiple subject credential, Clear Reading credential and TESL certificate. Christine brings a wealth of knowledge in reading and writing strategies to the VC Pirates Cove. Her goal is to help student learn and implement strategies that encourage a love of learning and assist in the student’s ability to meet their educational goals.
Christine may be contacted at coneill@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6280.


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Gavrielle Blank

Gavrielle Blank has been working in Ventura College's Tutoring Center for 2 years, and has taught ESL to international students for 12 years. She is now joining us in the Pirates Cove to tutor reading and writing, as well as ELLs (English Language Learners). She earned her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College of Columbia University, her TESOL Certificate from UCLA Extension, her master’s degree from Claremont School of Theology, and is currently writing her dissertation to complete her PhD at Claremont Graduate University. Her goal is to help students realize that they can accomplish their academic goals no matter what obstacles they must overcome.
Gavrielle may be contacted at gblank@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6280.


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Sheila Bernard

Sheila Bernard - This buccaneer-at-large grew up in the greater Los Angeles area.  She graduated from UCLA with an inter-disciplinary major, and embarked upon an inter-disciplinary life, including a 28-year career with Los Angeles Unified School District.  Her program served at-risk youth and young adults who were finishing their high school diploma or preparing for the GED.  The program offered all required high school subjects, including Math, English, “hard” science, and social science.  She experienced the advantages of one-on-one instruction for students who struggled with basic subjects because they had different styles of learning or gaps in their early education.  Now she is proud to bring her experience to Pirates Cove to help students discover the feeling of accomplishment that comes with mastery of difficult subjects.  Besides teaching, she has had a couple of adventures in community organizing, having to do with food co-ops and affordable housing.  She is interested in the environment as an ongoing issue affecting all of humanity.
Sheila may be contacted at sbernard@vcccd.edu or 805-289-6280


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